Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, announced recently (on Facebook, of course) that he is taking two months of paternity leave after the birth of his daughter, Max. In his post, Zuckerberg noted that studies have found better outcomes when parents take time off from work to be with their newborns. He also pointed out that his company offers U.S. employees four months of paid maternity or paternity leave.
Zuckerberg is right: There are many research-backed reasons for parents to take leave. Still, while paternity leave has been expanding at American companies, such as Netflix and Microsoft, it is far from being a mainstream benefit.
Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, live in Palo Alto’s Crescent Park neighborhood. California, along with Rhode Island and New Jersey, are the only three states in the U.S. that offer paid family leave to workers of any gender. The existence of such laws is evidence of a drift toward gender equality at work and at home, but the problem is that even men who are offered paid leave often don’t take it, for fear of social and professional repercussions in the office hierarchy.
So how do these laws impact new dads? Using data from the Census and the American Community Survey, a group of researchers found that the California Paid Family Leave program, which was started in 2004 and pays new mothers and fathers about 55 percent of their salaries during time off (up to $1,104), has increased rates of leave-taking for both moms and dads. (The program covers any worker in California who pays payroll tax.) The results, reported in a new National Bureau of Economic Research paper, show that fathers in California are 46 percent more likely to take time off in the first year of their child’s life when they have the option of paid leave, compared to when they don’t.